Start Tutoring From Home

Translating Your Teaching Skills Into Tutoring Success

Female teacher assisting girl (3-5) in classroom, smiling
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Recently, I started a tutoring business in addition to my classroom teaching. This works really well for me at the moment because I am teaching part-time, so I have plenty of time and sanity left for a few hours of one-on-one tutoring in the afternoons.

If you’re teaching full-time, I would not recommend adding any other responsibilities to the mix, much fewer ones that involve more time spent with other people’s children!

However, if you are in a situation where tutoring would enrich your life and/or your bank account, then I’d like to help you out by giving you an overview of how I planned and implemented my tutoring business plan.

Think of the Big Picture

What subjects are you qualified to teach? How can you prove to prospective clients that you have the knowledge and experience for these subjects? I've found that there is the most demand for high school math tutors. If you are competent and comfortable teaching Algebra and Geometry, you will have way less trouble finding clients. I am a little rusty on these subjects, but I am taking a lot of time right now brushing up on my high school math. I figure that I only have to do it once and then I will be back on track to tutor math for the foreseeable future with no worries.

Consider Your Possible Clients

What age group would you like to work with? You’ll also want to decide on a reasonable radius from your home that you’d be willing to accept clients from. For example, I made the mistake of accepting a client that lives 20-minutes away from me and I will have to drive on the freeway through traffic to get there and back. Not ideal, by any means. But I was just starting out and I felt desperate for clients and I said “yes” before I let myself ponder if it would really work for me and be worth the money. If you think about this beforehand, you won’t be caught off-guard on the phone, saying yes when you really mean no. Now, I plan to only accept clients that are in my immediate neighborhood.

Marketing Techniques

Think about the best way to reach your target audience. Some of the options include:

  • Flyers with tabs on the neighborhood mailboxes
  • Flyer delivery service to your target area
  • Post on Craigslist
  • Sign up for an online tutoring referral service
  • Put up flyers on the community
  • Advertise in community publications
  • Send a letter and business cards to the guidance counselors at local schools

I've had the most success with mailbox flyers and Craigslist, believe it or not. One of the best things about tutoring is that there's very little start-up costs. As your client list grows, word-of-mouth will be your best way to gain new clients. Collect reference letters from long-term clients and start to build up your reputation as a trusted neighborhood tutor.

Figure Your Hourly Rates

Do some precise market research to see how much other tutors in your area charge. Don’t sell yourself short and once you set your rate, be careful about compromising and lowering your rate. I made the mistake of agreeing to a slight discount in order to land my first few clients. Now, I’m stuck tutoring for a lower rate that I am not totally comfortable with. At the same time, I’ve lost a potential client or two because they said my rates were too high. However, if you research it properly, you shouldn’t have to lower your rates very often at all.

The Nitty-Gritty of Where and When 

Will you travel to clients or ask that your students come to your home? Ideally, of course, we’d all love to have our clients arrive neatly and promptly on our doorstep ready to learn. However, if you’re just starting out, you probably won’t be able to demand such a thing. As you build your resume and references, perhaps you can make this idea more of a reality. I try to emphasize that my house is very client with no distractions, which can be appealing to parents who have chaotic homes that would make your tutoring sessions far less productive. As for the “when” part of the question, be realistic about how much time you need in between appointments and how many hours you can actually accommodate in one afternoon.

Alright, the time, place, and rate are all set. Now, here's what you should do during the tutoring session itself.